When he unveiled the original iMac computer in 1998, Steve Jobs told us that the “i” in Apple products stood for “internet.”
However, as the spate of new “i” products from Apple emerged, one could also define the “i” as a stand-in for “individual” as well.
The iPhone, iPad, iTunes, etc., have provided individuals with more information, more entertainment, more autonomy (and more isolation) than any other products human beings have created. When all I “need” is in the palm of my hand, why consistently engage with others?
This lack of social engagement and the rise of aloneness has been well-documented among young adults in work by Sherry Turkle and others. But, I also see echoes of these themes in organizational leaders today.
For instance, new university presidents who fail to engage their board members in both professional and personal ways so that real interpersonal understanding and relationships can emerge.
Or, organizational executive directors who make decisions on complicated issues without taking the full measure of time to listen to the many perspectives and interests involved.
Or, a nonprofit leader who begins speaking openly about a potential campaign dollar goal that is far larger than anyone else has dreamed. What he views as boldness and upbeat actually is perceived as absurb and demoralizing.
When consequential decisions are made, when plans are conceived, or when intrepid visions cast, leaders must have key board members, leadership team members, and, significant donors, and others with them. As a leader, finding oneself too far out in front of those who are following is just as problematic as not having the support of those who are following.
Leadership is a social art, not an individual one. Leaders are not effective because of their individual intellect, abilities, and capacities.
Leaders are effective because of how they use their individual intellect, abilities, and capacities to transfer the ownership of decisions, plans, and visions to others.
The practice of iLeadership for any leader will eventually become a problem.
On the other hand, weLeadership (or wiiLeadership to continue the tech. analogy) will almost always serve the institution more helpfully.